The True Meaning of Development: A Comprehensive Approach

In the world of sports, the term “development” has become almost trite. Parents and players often ask for development, yet many struggle to articulate what it truly means. Consequently, they settle for anything that feels good or seems better than what they currently have. At LEAD, we define development as the process of becoming. This process involves a series of steps to achieve a goal, and it is through this structured approach that human beings evolve and excel.

Defining Development

Development is the Deliberate Effort to Value and Empower Learners to Obtain Personal Mastery and Excellence through Nurturing Training.

The Four Phases of Development at LEAD

Years ago, I devised a simple yet effective development process for LEAD, encompassing four key phases:

  1. Assessment: Understanding what players can and cannot do.
  2. Engagement: Teaching players to do what they cannot do.
  3. Empowerment: Granting responsibility and authority for what they can do.
  4. Application: Performing skills in front of those who can reward them financially for what they can do.

While this process can be unpacked in greater detail, I won’t reveal all the intricacies for free.

The Core Elements of Development

Development requires struggle. It often pushes individuals to the brink of quitting. It necessitates celebration, particularly reparations for Black American players who have been historically marginalized. Development demands patience, defined as waiting without anger. It calls for competent coaching, where the coach knows how to cultivate an environment conducive to learning. Progressing through the development process must be earned, not given. Finally, development requires truth-telling, prioritizing facts over feelings.

Development vs. Cultivation

I am convinced that legions of Black boys show up to showcases knowing how to play without the need for a lot of further coaching. Baseball has been played by Black men since 1845 when the game was invented. We know how to play. We don’t know everything there is to know about the game and how to play, but we know enough that if we had more cultivation than coaching, we would be competing at the collegiate and Major League Baseball level at numbers competitive with our white counterparts. More cultivation is what Black parents should be asking for rather than more coaching.

Cultivation is about growing. Think about the agriculture process of growing food. There is a process of tilling, planting, and harvesting. Players and parents can easily understand the planting (coaching) and harvesting (receiving scholarships and MLB Draft Signing Bonus), but the tilling happens first. It is the humbling of Black boys with love, care, and empathy, emphasizing that you can’t play this game for yourself because the number of Black men competing in college and the pros is at an all-time low. The tilling is where we establish the why, which is more vital than the what, the how, and the when.

To ensure a robust development process, here are five essential questions that players and parents should ask coaches:

  1. What specific steps are involved in your development process?
  2. How do you assess a player’s current abilities and identify areas for improvement?
  3. What methods do you use to engage and teach new skills to players?
  4. How do you empower players and provide them with responsibility and authority?
  5. Can you provide examples of how players have successfully applied their skills in real-world scenarios and been financially rewarded for what they can do?

By asking these questions, parents and players can better understand the development process and ensure it aligns with their goals.

The LEAD Commitment

At LEAD, we are dedicated to a multifaceted journey of development that requires intentional effort, patience, and the right environment. Our mission at the LEAD Center For Youth is to use the sport of baseball to help Black boys overcome the three curveballs that threaten their success: crime, poverty, and racism. Through our LEAD Ambassadors program, we aim to cultivate Black boys to become Major League Players and Major League Citizens.

Believing that through this process, God will receive the glory, we strive to make a lasting impact on the lives of the players we serve.

photo by iSmooth